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Surrey Board of Trade tour visits My Shanti
More than 100 members of Surrey's business community joined the fifth annual Surrey Board of Trade bus tour of city-based industries on Friday.
The major South Surrey stop for some 30 participants was celebrity chef Vikram Vij's My Shanti restaurant at Morgan Crossing.
Although the restaurant is not yet open for business – a soft opening is planned for later this month – participants were personally welcomed by Vij and treated to a mouth-watering preview of pakoras, chutney and chai.
The animated chef and author, host of Vancouver restaurants Vij's and Rangoli's – and also a TV personality as a result of Food Network shows and current exposure on The Dragon's Den as one of the 'dragon' investors – explained that his new South Surrey venture, a partnership, is not intended simply to replicate his other restaurants.
"My Shanti – which means 'my peace' – has a menu based on travels in India to different regions," he said, adding that he believes the South Surrey market is ready for a more sophisticated approach to Indian cuisine that emphasizes that there is more to sample than butter chicken.
"I don't want to hide behind spices, I want to elevate them," he said, noting he feels the Vancouver market has become saturated with restaurants, while there is an expanding market in Surrey.
"This is not just a South Surrey restaurant – I believe this area, this neighborhood is going to do extremely well – it's time for us to broaden our horizons."
A passionate supporter of sustainable food, Vij said he will serve only wines from local wineries, and will "utilize as much local produce as possible."
"Why should I get a cheap tomato from Mexico," he said. "I want to raise awareness of local produce."
Vij showed participants a sample of the much-talked-about reflective panels that have already given the restaurant a distinctive, look in the local landscape.
They were originally planned to cover only part of the structure, he said, but once he saw them in place he decided to extend their use all around the building – even though it boosted costs for the venue.
"I wanted it to evoke an India sari, that shimmering fabric," he said.
Vij also said that he is determined that My Shanti will also be unique in not trying to be all things to all people – there are plenty of family-oriented restaurants in the local market.
"That's why there are no television sets, although I like Trevor Linden and hockey as much as anybody," he said, adding in response to a question that he has no plans to open a restaurant patio.
"I want it to be a date-night type of place – I don't want it to be a high-chair type of place," he said.
"When you come to my house, you should feel the love and passion behind what I serve. Everybody has their own style and that is my style."
In answer to another question from his guests, he added that the restaurant will not be a venue for live music, because it would detract from the music – which, he feels, deserves the same kind of attention as the cuisine.
"I don't want background music, because it would not be doing justice to the music – what about the art and the love and the passion that goes into that?"
My Shanti was the only hospitality business highlighted in this year's SBOT bus tour. Also featured were manufacturing plants Murray Latta Progressive Machine, Aegis Industrial Finishing, Advance Wire Products, Laser Valley Technologies and Astrographic Industries, and health-oriented businesses Back In Motion Rehab and Pacific Oral Health Society.
The tour concluded with a lunch and keynote presentation at Kwantlen Polytechnic University's Trade and Technology campus in Cloverdale.